What tripod should I buy for shooting video with a DSLR camera?

September 2, 2013 at 10:30 am  •  Posted in News & Events, Q&A by

What kind of a tripod do I need when shooting video clips? I really want to take good Full HD movies with my new Nikon D3200, and I really should replace my old tripod, which is flimsy. What should I look for without spending a ton of money?
—Rafael K.

That’s a good question, Rafael, now that nearly all DSLRs can shoot video in addition to stills. You can find many tripod kits, but most include a conventional pan/tilt or ball head. Either is perfect for taking still photos but not really suitable for shooting movies. So, ideally, you’d want a tripod without a head, plus two heads, one for still photos and the other for videos.

A video head on a rigid tripod is preferable to using other types of heads. The "fluid" heads are particularly suitable, offering great ease of control and very smooth results when you pan the camera. They're fine for shooting still photos too, but they're much larger than a conventional head, and many do not allow for rotating the camera to a vertical orientation. (Manfrotto 055 with 700RC2 head) Photo Courtesy of Gentec International

If you’re sure that you want a tripod kit with a video head, look for something like the Manfrotto 502AM with 502 fluid head, the Benro 2573F with A2573FS6 fluid head or the Velbon C-600 kit with fluid head. (The latter is particularly affordable at $130, but it’s intended to support only 2kg of weight.) The term “fluid” indicates that the head is equipped with a cartridge containing a liquid as a lubricant for a much smoother pan/tilt effects to prevent jerkiness in your videos. The most frequent adjustments can be made with the long handle, which can be loosened, tightened and locked.

Some tripods (like this Velbon C-600) are equipped with bracing struts between the legs for great stability. This type can certainly be very rigid, but it does prevent the legs from being spread to allow for low-level camera positioning. If that's not an issue for you, a Velbon C-600 with fluid head, or a larger, similar tripod, might be a fine choice. Photo Courtesy of Nadel Enterprises

Or start by finding a rigid tripod that offers a height of 130 cm or more without extending the centre post; this will minimize the need to bend far down to view the scene on the camera’s LCD screen. (Extending the centre post more than a little bit will really minimize rigidity.) Regardless of the size, look for one that is rated for supporting 2.5 kg of weight or more for great stability. For example, check out the Manfrotto 055 series or the Induro AT213; neither is terribly expensive. Then, add a “fluid” video head such as the Manfrotto 700RC2 or the Benro S4.